Bird food: Hawks 116, Bulls 92

Pictured: Pure terror for Bulls fans.

Pictured: Pure terror for Bulls fans.

No Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in left foot).

No Luol Deng (sore left knee).

Derrick Rose, who entered the game with a bruised left knee, collided with Mike Bibby in the first quarter and spent the next several minutes on the court in obvious pain. Eventually, he hobbled to the locker room. I was taking part in the ESPN Daily Dime chat, and the Bulls fans in attendence– myself included — reacted like the President had just been shot. I’m not kidding. Watching D-Rose writhe around was terrifying.

The good news? Rose eventually returned and ended up scoring a game-high 24 points. The bad new? It took Derrick 24 shots to score those points…and Chicago went on to lose by 24 points anyway. I guess 24 was just the magic number.

But you know what? I’ll take the loss for Rose to be okay.

Said Derrick: “It’s still hurting a little bit. The force of him just running into me is still getting to my knees. Yesterday it was kind of to the side of my knee. This time, it was right on the side of my kneecap. It hurt, but I tried to fight through it.”

And relief washes over me in an awesome wave.

Rose was clearly not 100 percent after the collision, but that didn’t cause this blowout. Noah (11.4 RPG) and Deng (7.5) are the team’s leading rebounders. Without them, Atlanta outrebounded the Bulls 63-37, including 22-8 on the offensive glass. Simply put, the Hawks core Chicago down withrebounding, especially Josh Smith, who finished with 18 boards (including 6 on the offensive end).

The Bulls actually held Atlanta to 44 percent shooting, but you can’t give a good team that many second opportunities. Not when you’re already shorthanded and your best player is banged up. But give credit to the Hawks. they were aggressive and relentless, which explains their 30-15 edge in free throw attempts.

The crazy thing is, the Bulls actually pulled to within six points (85-79) on a 21-footer by Derrick Rose with 8:31 left in the game. Then they just…succumbed. Chicago proceeded to give up three consecutive offensive rebounds, which eventually led to a tip shot by Marvin Williams. Then the Hawks got three straight layups (the last of which was an “And 1!”), a couple open jumpers and then two more driving layups.

The Bulls ran out of gas.

The reality is, we’re not talking about a team with a huge margin of error. Yes, it’s true that every NBA team suffers injuries. But the Bulls were missing two of their top three players, andtheir top player was hobbled. After all, Deng isn’t merely Chicago’s second-leading rebounder, he’s also the team’s second-leading scorer and one of their top defenders.

The Hawks, meanwhile, are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Honestly? I expected a blowout as soon as I found out Deng was a scratch. I was actually mildly impressed the Bulls held out for as long as they did. But once the flood gates opened, the water poured in.

Chicago was outscored 41-24 in the fourth quarter.

It’s hard to get a grip on this “new” Bulls team. With John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas playing — and, in all fairness, playing well — elsewhere, Vinny Del Negro is clearly searching for a new rotation. But that’s a little difficult to do when key starters are hurt or missing all together.

Said Del Negro: “We have to get Joakim and Luol back. Atlanta is a very athletic, strong front line. They are young and they have hurt us before. Obviously, that was the difference in the game. They would miss and go get it and control the tempo of the game.”

Noah probably won’t be back this week, but he hopes to be “able to play when it matters.” Del Negro expects Deng to return for Thursday’s home game against the Grizzlies.

Still, this is a really, really bad time for guys to be ailing. Here’s a snapshot of Chicago’s immediate (and rather gruesome) near-future: versus the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Jazz, then at Orlando, Miami, Memphis and Dallas, and then back home for a March 19 showdown with the Cavaliers.

Those are pretty grim circumstances, folks.

And unless Chicago’s medical staff discovers a miracle cure for bum knees and plantar fasciitis, the Bulls could very well slip back below .500.

Timeout tally:
1st timeout: Taken before a Hawks free throw (1-for-1)
2nd timeout: Miller jump shot (Murray assists)
3rd timeout: Taken before Atlanta free throws (2-for-2)
4th timeout: Taken before Hawks free throw (1-for-2)
5th timeout: Miller missed three-pointer

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17 Responses to Bird food: Hawks 116, Bulls 92

    bobbysimmons March 2, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    Let’s face the fact that Noah will not be the same for the rest of the season, he may not even play again until next season. Now trading Thomas and Salmons to our rivals vying for the same playoff spots looms large. If we’re honest we can admit we’re a better with Thomas and Salmons than Warrick and Murray. With Rose and Deng hobbled and Noah likely done for the season we’re facing an uphill battle vs. the likes of surging teams like Toronto and Milwaukee. We’ll have to fight for the 7th or 8th seed in a three way race against Miami and Charlotte which doesn’t bode well for our FA hopes this off season. If you were Wade or Bosh, would you want to come to team that can give you a less lucrative contract plus are currently seeded under you? Probably not. Just hope we don’t have to end up giving Joe Johnson or Boozer the max.

    Matt McHale March 2, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    “If you were Wade or Bosh, would you want to come to team that can give you a less lucrative contract plus are currently seeded under you? Probably not. Just hope we don’t have to end up giving Joe Johnson or Boozer the max.”

    We’ve all known for a while that this season was a sacrificial lamb in our bid to go for a big name FA in the summer of 2010. I’m not happy about that, but it would have been hard to retain Salmons and still have enough $$ to do what needs to be done.

    As for Tyrus, the help he could have given the team might have been offset by the apparent rift between him and the coaching staff. I would guess that more damage would have been done to the FA hopes if his outbursts/unhappiness continued. With him gone, it can be dismissed as an isolated incident involving a player who needed a fresh start elsewhere.

    Yeah, it’s bad that we pumped up some playoff rivals, and it may effect our seeding. I’m not sure that the difference between the sixth seed and the eighth in the East is going to have that big an effect on a FAs decision to come here or not.

    There are going to be a LOT of factors in the mix. It helps that the Bulls are in the third biggest media market, are always one of the top revenue-generating teams and have a promising core (Rose, Noah, Deng). Oh, and they have money to spend.

    Those are the selling points. Let’s hope they’re enough.

    chad March 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    bobbysimoons is right, we would have been better without the trades. even grey would have been better to have now that we are too small, devin brown does us no good from the bench. if we coulda got tyrus straightened out and he played like he’s playing in charlotte, we could be winning a lot of games despite noah and deng’s injuries. then at the end of the year we could have had a solid playoff run, and more free agents may want to join the bulls. a solid free agent might think about how maybe they would have a better chance to win a championship if tyrus was still on the team, so then the free agent could sign for a little less money in order for the bulls to be able to afford tyrus. there are players on other teams who have done that, taken less money in order to win. or if the good free agents dont want tyrus to stay with the bulls and want to take all the money for themselves, then let tyrus go sign with someone else next year. so what if we lose him for nothing, we did lose him for nothing, murray, law, and a future protected draft pick is nothing. Anyone who saw the bulls last night must agree they are the most boring team right now without the size to beat anyone good. the only exciting thing about them now is rose. and when he tries to get assists, the guys he throws it to lose the ball or miss the shot. if we can’t get any real good free agents and end up with an extra 6 million that they coulda used on tyrus, it would be sad if that money ends up being used to keep Warrick, Murray, and Pargo instead. even salmons woulda been better than those 3 guys. i understand why we had to get rid of salmons to have enough cap space, we just better end up with someone good with that money. gar and vinny suck. i am glad tyrus is getting his chance for someone.

    chad March 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    hey lets sign Michael Finley, better than Pargo

    bobbysimmons March 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    Getting rid of Salmons is fine, but maybe find a better fit than Milwaukee? We got nothing back in that trade, while they got a huge boost and are now surging. About Chicago being the 3rd biggest media market, true, but I just read on ESPN today about “future power rankings,” and they rank Chicago as the 7th best market, behind cities like LA, Miami, NY, Dallas, even Orlando and Phoenix. I guess they really value warm weather.

    Adrian March 2, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    Chad, I think we all are going to miss Tyrus Thomas sorely, it stings to see him lighting it up with Larry Brown and the Bobs, but the fact is that he wasn’t producing or producing in In VDN’s system (which is a whole other issue). The bulls were definitely a boring team in the beginning of the season but that was because there was absolutely no ball movement. With the additions of Flip Murray, and Hakim Warrick, the bulls have had a much more lively offense because they do the jobs that Salmons and Tyrus weren’t doing, Flip is creating his own shots and being a play maker, and Hakim is running the floor and hitting open jumpers. The bulls are a very exiting team and can actually out up big points as our last win streak shows. You can’t go jumping off of cliffs when the bulls lose to a title contender, when they missing their two best front court players, Luol and Joakim.

    I have to admit that the trades took away some size in the back court, and with these injuries we are spread very thin, depending on how this brutal stretch of plus .500 teams goes, the bulls may just have to consider shutting joakim down for the season, he is one of our most valuable building blocks and we know how bad foot injuries can be for big men.

    I think the bulls have proven there worth to the free agent market, and regardless of how the rest of the season goes, I believe that chicago is a top destination for any free agent. I am still so torn about our free agent options, the loss of Tyrus Thomas really changes things, A pick up of lebron, bosh, or wade, would be Ideal but If those don’t play out, I think Joe Johnson’s skill set would compliment rose very well, and his length would make our front court a match up nightmare.

    I hope joakim gets better and I wish the bulls the best of luck for this upcoming stretch.

    Matt McHale March 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    I’m not ready to hit the panic button on the trades just yet. Remember: Not having Joakim has been one of the biggest reasons the Bulls have struggled in a few games (Wizards, Pacers, Hawks). His rebounding and interior defense have been sorely missed. And last night we were without Deng, who’s second on the team in scoring and rebounding, and, based on defensive rating, currently our third-best defender.

    Would having Salmons and Thomas have really changed what happened? Both players were struggling in Chicago’s system. Maybe that was a failure of the system…we don’t know. I mean, Rose and Noah have been developing pretty well.

    Now Salmons and Thomas have found systems that are working for them in the short term. Kudos to them and the teams that picked them up. There’s nothing we can do about that now.

    The priority is getting Deng and Noah, and Rose of course, healthy.

    chad March 2, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    coulda used richard’s rebounding yesterday

    Matt McHale March 2, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    It might also be worth pointing out that people were pretty upset when Ben Gordon was averaging 20 PPG for the Pistons last November while the Bulls were struggling. His strong play didn’t continue.

    I’m not saying that John and Ty are going to fall back into the abyss or anything, only that it’s too early to truly evaluate these trades, especially considering that the Bulls’ top three players are struggling with injuries.

    thirdsaint March 2, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    I think that, if one were to not know Rose’s status, that picture above would make men cry more than the latest chick flick would make women cry. :-/

  11. chad March 2, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    yea tyrus will have some bad games, but i still like his size, and salmons 3 point ability, things we are missing lately. probably woulda been better off getting harrington instead of murray and law

    Sami March 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

    You know it’s bad when your clamoring for Chris Richard!

    Max March 3, 2010 at 12:29 am #

    Why are you still talking about Tyrus Chad!!!!!!! Get over it and they lost two games!!! Quit overreacting you negative SOB’s or stop being Bulls fans.

    inkybreath March 3, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    We were lucky to even remain close toward the end of this game. Joe Johnson got a bunch of good looks that he clanged (5 of 15 – 0 of 3 from 3pt). This game just had a pall cast over it from the beginning. I was saying to myself, “You guys need to figure out how to win this game, there are going to be many more tough ones on the way.”

    Beyond it all, the team fought. They really did. Vinnie could have done a better job, I thought. Again, there were a couple opportunities for time-outs that he missed the beat on. And, at the end of the game, right before it started to get out of hand, where was James Johnson? We needed his size and bounce desperately and he just sat with four fouls for almost the whole fourth quarter? I was actually quite upset about this .. it seemed so clear. I guess Vinnie saw something that he didn’t like? I don’t know, but this was the kind of game that JJ could have used, we’re going to need him on this stretch – he needed to finish that game.

  15. TexasBullsFan March 3, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    Let’s be honest, folks. Tyrus did and wasn’t going to produce in our system. He didn’t produce in any of the systems we’ve had since we drafted him.

    Sometimes, a trade is necessary for a guy to get his perspective on the league and his place. And hey, it’s been what, a week? Maybe 2? We dunno what these players are going to do. The Bulls got who they did so that they could go for some big names next summer. That’s why. Not so they could make a push to the playoffs this year. And lets be realistic, unless we were very lucky, we weren’t going to get out of the first round and *certainly* not the second round. We’re just not a good enough team yet. Could we have beaten a washed-up Celtics team? Maybe. But we weren’t going to knock down any powerhouses.

    We’ve got a lot of sore players at key positions. Our 3 stars are hurting and 2 didn’t even play. That’s a recipe for getting beat.

    blackfujones March 3, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    im with matt on this one…chad/bobby your clamoring for TT and salmons is a little bit extreme. lets face it, they were not very good in this system this yr. they were both going to be owed more money or simply lost for nothing next year. and quite frankly TT was a cancer, and salmons simply is not good and hates coming off the bench. we found a player who likes coming off the bench and scoring with flip murray. and a high energy and much better professional player in warrick. trust me we wouldve still lost with those two players here bc it wouldve been TT on horford or pachulia instead of warrick, and salmons and his untucked shirt out there guarding the likes of joe johnson/marvin williams jamal crawford. quite simply the bulls ran out of gas and should be commended for putting up a valiant effort. the bucks are finally playing real competition like the hawks/celtics/utah and already got beat by the hawks. the bobcats havent been lightening it up lately by going a paltry 1-4 out of their last 4 games. lets face it the teams we’re talking about are not contending for anything but playoff positions and a quick exit. only thing different between us and them , is the simple fact that we just want a weeee bit more playoff experience for our core and we’re preparing for a strong push for the next 3-5 yrs for the big ticket.

  17. Super Joe March 4, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Funny how everyone is crying about the Salmons and T. Thomas trades when a week ago everybody was all over Warrick’s and Flip’s huevos. Players get injured, and when people get injured morale drops. Expect a rough patch of games coming up, but don’t jump ship yet. There is still more basketball to be played.

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